It was a typical Friday evening for one Mr. Roger Sullivan, whom entertained himself by reading the daily news while his lovely wife Lesley washed dishes in the kitchen. Their pretty and clever seventeen-year-old daughter Barbara was doing her homework upstairs, or so the teenager had claimed earlier.
Life was good.
"Honey, I'm in the mood for a game of chess later. What do you say?" Roger asked as he reached the sports section of the newspaper and Lesley moved on to wiping the bench clean.
"Why, Roger, I'd love to..." Lesley replied with a radiant smile before putting down the dishcloth and removing her gloves.
She ran over and knelt down to give her husband a kiss on the cheek. He blushed and beamed, enjoying the affection until Barbara came back downstairs, looking quite charming in a new blue dress.
"Daddy..." She spoke up while simpering sweetly and twirling her blonde hair with one finger. "It's eight o'clock. You know what that means..."
"I don't know, kitten. Could you remind me?"
"I have a date with Stephen Donovan. We're going to see Oklahoma!"
"That Stephen?!" Roger responded in alarm. "Oh no, kitten!"
"What's wrong, Daddy?" Barbara asked as she nervously began to chew on her nails. "He's a dreamboat and I love him."
"You don't understand the half of it. He runs with a dangerous crowd and a boy like him is only going to end up in a bad place. Tell me, do you want that sort of trouble in your life?"
"I guess you're right, Daddy. I don't know what I even saw in him..."
"That's my girl. Now go back upstairs and keep studying."
"Sure will, Daddy!"
"Goddamn it..." Roger thought in deep dismay when he woke up to find that instead of the perfect wife in his dream, the person lying beside him was a woman with disheveled hair and dry lips whose best years were far behind her.
Of course, as a forty-three-year-old business executive, he was no spring chicken either. Nor was he some tough paragon of masculinity like Burt Reynolds or Steve McQueen. He was just another tedious white-collar worker trapped by routine until old age forced him to retire.
Despite knowing that prospects weren't much better for his wife Lesley, he still envied her for being able to do something that she was at least a little passionate about.
"Lesley..." He said softly while forcing himself to sit up and hearing his bones creak. "Are you awake?"
She opened her eyes just wide enough to gaze up at him.
"I'm heading downstairs to get ready. Take care of yourself and have a good time at work..."
She didn't reply and simply rolled over to get a little more rest. He sighed before stepping slowly out of bed to face another day and hoping that the time would pass quickly.
He considered knocking on his daughter Barbara's door after finishing in the bathroom, but decided against it when he thought about how the teenager was already hard enough on herself without a parent to monitor things.
"Heredity is a strange thing..." He thought while approaching the stairs. "She's got my nose and lips, Lesley's eyes, but my father's-"
Roger stopped by the framed photo of his father Irving that hung on the wall. He reached out to touch the glass and couldn't believe that the old man was gone already.
The sight of neighborhood boy Steve sitting bored on the living room couch hardly shocked Roger when he came home on Friday night.
It had become a common occurrence for the long-haired teenager to seek refuge in their house and though Roger could empathize with having a missing parent, he didn't understand how any child could detest their mother so much.
An even greater mystery was what exactly Barbara saw in Steve and vice-versa. From Roger's experience, girls tended to go mad over troubled boys, yet their relationship so far seemed to be completely platonic.
It occurred to Roger that he might learn something by talking to Steve directly. Perhaps it would even be a chance for him to reassert dominance over someone and feel like a real man again.
"If I can't be a boss to my wife and daughter, maybe I can be one to a misguided kid like you..."
"May I speak to you for a few minutes, Steve?" He said in his most authoritarian voice after clearing his throat.
Steve turned to look shyly up at him as if intimidated by his presence. It was working already.
"Uh, sure, Mr Sullivan..."
Roger knew that sitting down would give the message that they were equals, so he chose to remain standing despite his sore legs.
"I want you to tell me the truth. How do you feel about Barbara?"
"I...well, she's a friend."
"Yeah..." Steve replied quietly while shifting his legs closer toward the rest of his body.
"What sort of friend?"
"I don't know. How many sorts do you have?"
Roger was slightly taken aback by such a response. He hadn't expected to hear this boy scathingly place emphasis on the word 'you' when he'd been rather apathetic beforehand.
"Well, if you ask me, there are two types. A close friend, you feel comfortable telling your secrets to. A 'work' friend on the other hand, is someone you only talk to because you want to stay on good terms. You might say hello to them every morning and send them cards at Christmas, but you wouldn't count on them to help you out when you're in a jam."
"You...you middle-class workers are weird..." Steve remarked, looking quite confused. "Why would you send Christmas cards to people you don't really care about?"
"Are you drunk, son?"
"No, my life is just too far removed from your's."
"You haven't answered my earlier question. How do you feel about-"
"I know what you asked me before. I'm not stupid."
"Then tell me. As her father, I have a right to find out."
Steve hesitated in such a way that Roger feared that his suspicions would turn out to be true. However, the teenager's answer soon eased his anxiety a little.
"I guess we're close. I feel safer around her and she talks to me like I'm an actual person..."
"So, would you say that you two are just friends? You haven't done anything you weren't supposed to, have you?"
"Why don't you ask her? You won't believe me anyway."
Roger found himself feeling distrustful again. He glared ahead while not wishing to let Steve out of his sight.
"I'll do that later, but for now, my eyes are on you until you decide to leave."
"You're going to be waiting a while. My Mom has a knife..."